Why Wine? The Examiner.com Interview

Recently I was interviewed by the Examiner.com on why I chose to enter the wine industry. When you start talking to the people in the wine industry, you realize that they are the true gems of this industry. I am reprinting the story that was printed in the Examiner.

April Yap-Hennig

April Yap-Hennig


This is the first in a new series to introduce you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.

An interview with April Yap-Hennig, Founder of Sacred Drop, a travel and wine blog

Examiner: Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?

April Yap-Hennig: It was during my study abroad in Spain when I was 19. I met a young boy whose father owned and managed a plot of land that he later sold the grapes to Rioja Alta, one of the oldest Rioja wineries in the region.

He had insisted on doing a nice dinner together, which we cooked and he brought over a beautiful bottle of a Rioja Alta, which was specifically made from all the farmers from whom they purchased grapes. They then made a special release that they provided only to these vintners, which I was lucky enough to try that night.

It was then that I realized what great quality wine is supposed to taste like and it opened my eyes to this industry. The relationship may not have lasted but his impact on the rest of my life did.

What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?

I studied Communications, more specifically Public Relations in Undergrad. After working for four and half years in Los Angeles in Public Relations, I decided I needed something more, PR was only one part of the marketing mix.

I then went on to study at Purdue University and obtained my MBA with a focus in Marketing and Human Resources. It was obvious from the moment I started that Marketing had always been my true calling.

I was then recruited to work for Eaton Manufacturing, where I worked for another four and half years in The Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland. I was the first of their European Marketing Leadership Development Team. These are people they train in multiple areas of the company, Electric, Hydraulic, Truck and Automotive, and Aerospace. They are basically grooming you to be upper management, running the company one day.

I loved working for them but my true calling came when I saw the opportunity to return to my beloved and not forgotten Rioja. It came in the form of advertisement for a two year Masters of Science in Viticulture and Enology at the University of La Rioja, in the exact same town, in the exact same university that I had studied in back when I was 19.

I applied to the program and the minute I was accepted, my husband and I quit our jobs in Switzerland and moved to Spain. I then went on to help smaller boutique wineries with their marketing and export plans while I went to school. It was such a wonderful time and such a great opportunity to jump into the industry.

I knew that in order to get into the wine industry, I had to show the dedication through education in order to break in.

How has being in the wine industry changed you?

I’m not sure the wine industry has particularly changed me as much as I keep wanting to change it. I see so many opportunities that are employed in other industries that could so easily be applied in this industry. It is a matter of taking that leap that I feel sometimes companies, people, are afraid to do.

It’s human nature to not want to change but after living in seven different countries and numerous more moves, I know that change can sometimes be the catalyst to something better.

Has it changed me? Yes, I’ve become a lot more humble, I will do everything from the most menial of tasks to the most complex and strategic. Generally in the corporate world, you are meant to be one part of the working machine and leave the rest to others to complete.

The difference here is that you are part of what keeps that working machine running at full speed, jumping in wherever necessary to help out in any way possible. In many ways, there are benefits to both but being able to wear many hats and then one as needed can give you the skills you need to succeed in any industry.

What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?

The people, are by far my favorite part of the industry. In particular the original winemaker/owners who have the entrepreneurial spirit to get out there and plant some vines and see what happens. Many of them come from so many different backgrounds such as Foreign Service to Corporate Directors.

Many saw this as an opportunity to come back down to earth, play in the dirt, come back to something simpler. I believe in a way, I became a part of this industry for the same reasons. It is not necessarily the most profitable business, so much of it is up to nature to dictate your future. For those that plan ahead and use the tools and skills available to them, they succeed but I can say it is never easy and it can be very hard to be profitable.

My second favorite, the availability of so many different types of wine. I got into this industry for the wine, the passion of it, the passion of people behind it and the culture that goes with it.

I find it fascinating that a single cluster of fruit can become a multi-million dollar industry in the world. In the end, it’s a grape. But it evolves into something so delicious and delectable that it’s stirs passions in more than just a few people.

Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?

Wine is a passion of mine and I hope I can have as much of an impact on the industry as it has had on me. Now I am looking for my next adventure in Oregon!

April’s background: www.about.me/aprilyaphennig
Travel and Wine Blog: www.sacreddrop.com
Twitter: @sacreddrop https://twitter.com/SacredDrop
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SacredDrop
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/aprilyaphennig/

Want to learn more about me?

Check out About Me- April Hennig page

Great way to tell others about yourself.

Wine History 101: What is wine and how it came to be

While recently reading a book called About Wine by J.Patrick Henderson, I was interested to learn more about the history behind the wine I drink so often. I thought it might be interesting to share with you wine history in a nutshell.

According to Henderson, wine was first consumed in Persia (modern-day Iran) in 5000 to 6000 B.C.  Wikipedia states that archaeological evidence exists for other early wine production at about 6000 B.C. in Georgia, and about 4100 B.C. in Armenia.

The Persians first made their wine from dates and other fruits available in the area.  It wasn’t until 3000 B.C.  that Vitis vinifera, a species of grape native of the Black and Caspian Seas was used by the Egyptians and Phoenicians to make wine.

In 1000 B.C. the Greek empire spread wine making throughout the Mediterranean region of Europe, Italy, France, and Spain. Because wine was the center of many spiritual and religious ceremonies, the Greeks created a deity, Dionysus, in honor of wine, and no festival could be complete without wine. At this time, however, wine was made from raisins or late-harvested grapes; these methods resulted in heavy, sweet almost syrupy liquid wine.

It wasn’t until the Romans started to develop technological advances in viticulture (grape growing) and enology (study of wine making) that wine started be aged in barrels for up to a century at a time. As the Roman empire grew, so did the expansion of vineyards and wine practices into countries such as Spain and Portugal.

During the Middle Ages, it fell upon the Catholic Church to develop and maintain the secrets of viticulture and enology—a practice which, under Pope Gregory the Great, made the church quite profitable and also encouraged the expansion of wine production and vines throughout Europe. The Church closely controlled wine making, and it required all grapes to be pressed in monasteries, for which the church would require a 10% “donation” of production.  The wealth created by wine production allowed the monks to dedicate themselves to studies of viticulture and enology. As the church grew, so did the cities that formed around these monasteries. It was during the reign of Charlemagne (768-814) that medieval viticulture and enology reached its peak.

It wasn’t until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and the great European Renaissance that the Church’s authority was disputed, most notably by Martin Luther. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Church had lost most of its political and economic power, and the majority of the vineyards passed to private hands.

The nineteenth century, the golden age of wine, was not only the greatest and most advanced period for viticulture and enology, but also the most devastating period in the history of wine making.

During that century, Louis Pasteur, the famous microbiologist, had identified that the fermentation of grape juice into wine was a result of action by microorganisms.  It was also during this time that Phylloxera, a topic I had discussed earlier in this web site,destroyed the vines of Europe.

Phylloxera, a root louse, or aphid, a small sap-sucking insect that feeds on roots and leaves originally from the eastern United States, was brought over to France on a merchant ship.  In 1868, it affected all of southern France and by 1874, had reached Germany. It was during this time that many French winemakers had established vineyards in Spain, on the other side of the Pyrenees in hopes to save the vineyards.  Nevertheless, by the late 1800s, Phylloxera had spread to all wine-making regions of Europe. It wasn’t until the introduction and use of rootstock from North America that the European revival of the wine industry began once again.

During this time and into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, those with economic means took their vines and knowledge of European wine making elsewhere, planting vineyards in other places in North America, as well in South America, Australia, and South Africa.

It was also during this time that World War I halted the production of European wine making, and Prohibition in 1919-1933 created a decline in the demand for wine. However, after World War II, returning U.S. servicemen came back with a newly acquired taste for European wine, and by the 1950s, wine interest and consumption was again on the rise. In the 1960s and 1970s, the New World took steps towards naming wines after grape varieties, as compared to the traditional European naming system involving geographic denominations such as La Rioja and Bordeaux. Public taste in North America began to move from sweet, fortified wines to dry table wines, marking the beginning of the wine market we know today.